I attended a one-day course on high-speed photography at SPAO and spent an amazing day learning how to take photographs of water drops. But is wasn’t just a lone water drop – the trick was to catch a water drop crashing into the previous drop, and stopping the motion of the crash with the help of an off-camera flash.
When a drop of water falls into a tray of water, it first creates a depression in the water, which quickly fills up to create a small column of water. Then the second drop crashes into this column to create different shaped patterns of spray. We used a small computer chip connected to a laptop, the flash and a solenoid valve that released the drops. Variables in the computer program determined when to release the drops and fire the flash.
I do not consider myself to be a technical person, and at the start of the course, when presented with the technology, all I could think about was how to run away and hide – it was literally over-whelming for me, especially considering that there were two engineers on the course who were speaking in a engineer-tongue.
However, after eight hours of learning and experimenting, I did not want to leave. I was hooked!
One really neat thing I discovered was that, no matter how much you tried to take the same shot, the smallest change to the environment would create a different water drop pattern. Things like the level of water in the tube from which the water drops originated, a slight breeze from the air conditioner, the level of water in the tray, people moving around in the room … any of these could dramatically change the final pattern.